William Hague speaks on doctors' working hours

DAMAGING rules that limit doctors' working hours prove the need to claw back powers from the European Union, William Hague has said.

The Richmond MP and Foreign Secretary warned the EU working time directive (WTD) was making it "harder to run a hospital in a rural area, like in my constituency".

The stance echoes long-standing criticism, by the 250-bed Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, that the rules threatened its future status.

However, junior doctors have reacted furiously to suggestions that Britain will try to opt out of the WTD - warning it would return the NHS to the bad old days of 100-hour working weeks.

The row blew up after Mr Hague carried out a series of interviews to make the case for an 'in-out' referendum, in 2017, to decide whether Britain remains a member of EU - if the Tories win the next general election.

The Foreign Secretary was put under pressure to provide specific examples of the powers that Britain will try to 'repatriate', in talks with other EU members.

Quizzed on Channel 4 News, Mr Hague pointed out that the Conservatives had proposed, in their 2010 election manifesto, that Britain should enjoy an opt out from the WTD.

And he said: "It means it's much harder to run a hospital in a rural area, like in my constituency, and that directly affects our health service.

"This is a specific example - and you asked for specific examples - but I can't, today, set out a list for the negotiations, because Europe is changing."

Mr Hague did not refer specifically to the Friarage and his spokesman was unable to elaborate on the remarks, when asked yesterday.

As far back as 2005, managers and senior doctors at the hospital pointed to limits on the working hours of junior doctors as a threat to its status as a 24-hour, consultant-led maternity unit.

A controversial proposal, put forward last year, would scrap the consultant-led services at the Friarage's maternity unit and downgrade the paediatric unit.

However, a spokeswoman for South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, said: "The working time directive has no impact on, or connection, with the proposed changes to children's and maternity services."

But Ben Molyneux, chairman of the BMA junior doctors' committee, warned that patients would pay the price if the rules were rolled back in Britain.

He said: "Junior doctors have become pawns in the political argument about the powers of the EU.

"Before the introduction of the WTD, it was not uncommon for junior doctors to work 100-hour weeks. The directive seeks to protect doctors and patients, as there is clear evidence that tired people make more mistakes."

Comments (5)

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10:43am Sat 26 Jan 13

scuzz says...

I would not want to be treated by a doctor who had worked over 40 hours already that week. I wonder how many hours Hague works each week, then again talking crap can't really be classed as working can it?
I would not want to be treated by a doctor who had worked over 40 hours already that week. I wonder how many hours Hague works each week, then again talking crap can't really be classed as working can it? scuzz

1:23pm Sat 26 Jan 13

stevegg says...

The real issue is how and why the last labour government negotiated a deal with NHS doctors which gave them a large pay rise and also gave them the option of opting out of unsociable hours working (weekends and nights) and the expected only a small percentage to do this as they naivelly believed these medical staff wolud put their patients welfare over their own social/domestic lives. The reality was 97% opted out and were quite happy to take the extra pay for doing less work!
The real issue is how and why the last labour government negotiated a deal with NHS doctors which gave them a large pay rise and also gave them the option of opting out of unsociable hours working (weekends and nights) and the expected only a small percentage to do this as they naivelly believed these medical staff wolud put their patients welfare over their own social/domestic lives. The reality was 97% opted out and were quite happy to take the extra pay for doing less work! stevegg

1:25pm Sat 26 Jan 13

ajtib3 says...

So Hague lets the cat out of the bag about what the Tories hope to gain by re-negotiating our EU agreement.

Like the junior doctors of old this country could be guilty of sleep-walking its way back into the dark ages for workers rights.

I well recall a local news programme before the WTD which showed a poor young female junior doctor's typical working week. It was heart-rending stuff watching this young lass, who had worked non-stop for 36 hours, in tears as she was told by a nurse that she had made a mistake on a dosage for a patient. This situation must not be allowed to happen again.

What about rules for HGV drivers etc - how much risk are the Tories prepared to take with workers and our lives.
So Hague lets the cat out of the bag about what the Tories hope to gain by re-negotiating our EU agreement. Like the junior doctors of old this country could be guilty of sleep-walking its way back into the dark ages for workers rights. I well recall a local news programme before the WTD which showed a poor young female junior doctor's typical working week. It was heart-rending stuff watching this young lass, who had worked non-stop for 36 hours, in tears as she was told by a nurse that she had made a mistake on a dosage for a patient. This situation must not be allowed to happen again. What about rules for HGV drivers etc - how much risk are the Tories prepared to take with workers and our lives. ajtib3

2:00pm Sat 26 Jan 13

Graeme_r says...

And coach drivers, train drivers, ambulance drivers etc do we wnat them to work 80 or 90 hours a week?
And coach drivers, train drivers, ambulance drivers etc do we wnat them to work 80 or 90 hours a week? Graeme_r

8:43am Sun 27 Jan 13

Idontknowaboutyoubut says...

The Tories would like to get rid of all workers rights,not just working hours restrictions.If Hague is truly concerned for the Friarage,he needs to look closer to home than Brussels.The real threat to every NHS centre in this country is home grown,caused by savage Tory cuts that are forcing the NHS Trusts to cut services,and close wards.Nursing and medical staff are losing their jobs,and that has NOWT to do with Brussels...
The Tories would like to get rid of all workers rights,not just working hours restrictions.If Hague is truly concerned for the Friarage,he needs to look closer to home than Brussels.The real threat to every NHS centre in this country is home grown,caused by savage Tory cuts that are forcing the NHS Trusts to cut services,and close wards.Nursing and medical staff are losing their jobs,and that has NOWT to do with Brussels... Idontknowaboutyoubut

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